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Multilayer Optical Disc Holding 1TB or 2TB From Start-Up Folio Photonics

Based on technology by Case Western Reserve University

This is a Press Release edited by StorageNewsletter.com on 2012.10.15
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Case Western Reserve University researchers have developed technology aimed at making an optical disc that holds 1TB to 2TB - the equivalent of 1,000 to 2,000 copies of Encyclopedia Britannica.

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The entire print collection of the Library of Congress could fit on five to 10 discs.

The discs would provide SMBs an alternative to storing data on energy-wasting magnetic disks or cumbersome magnetic tapes, the researchers say.

To push technology to market, the leaders of the effort have launched a company.

"A disc will be on the capacity scale of magnetic tapes used for archival data storage," said Kenneth D. Singer, the Ambrose Swasey professor of physics, and co-founder of Folio Photonics. "But, they'll be substantially cheaper and have one advantage: you can access data faster. You just pop the disc in your computer and you can find the data in seconds. Tapes can take minutes to wind through to locate particular data."

Since 2007, when data generated worldwide first exceeded the amount of data that could be stored, the need for cheaper, more manageable storage has only grown.

To load what is the equivalent of 50 commercially available Blu-ray discs on a single, same-size disc, the scientists use similar optical storage technology. But, instead of packing more data on the surface - which is why Blu-ray movies are sharper than DVD's - they write data in dozens of layers; not the two or four layers used in Blu-rays.

Here's how:
Using technology first developed by the Center for Layered Polymeric Systems at Case School of Engineering, Singer and Valle, in collaboration with their colleague Professor Eric Baer, make an optical film with 64 data layers.

A thick, putty-like flow of polymers is repeatedly divided and stacked, then spread into a film and rolled onto a spool. They estimate they can make a square kilometer of film in an hour.

To make the final product, the researchers cut and paste film onto the same hard plastic base DVDs and Blu-rays are built on.

Valle said they need to make only slight adjustments to a standard disc reader to enable it to probe and read the data on each layer without interference from layers above or below.

Singer and Valle just founded Folio Photonics, after spending much of the summer at an entrepreneurial boot camp. During the National Science Foundation's Innovation-Corps program, with sessions at Georgia Tech, they and physics lecturer Bruce Terry interviewed 150 potential customers, partners and suppliers, and underwent days and evenings of business and commercialization training.

"We learned in two months what some start-ups learn only through failing," Valle said.

The Case Western Reserve scientists aren't the only ones pursuing terabyte-storage discs. Other companies are "looking into a holographic technology, which requires two lasers to write the data and will require a whole new writer/reader," Singer said. "Ours has the advantage of lower manufacturing costs and is more compatible with current readers and writers."

The discs are aimed at storing data that isn't needed instantaneously or often, but is valuable enough to keep.

Singer and Valle are specifically looking to provide an affordable option to computer centers that now regularly purge data due to the prohibitive costs of current storage technologies.

They are also trying to fill increasing needs in the fields of pathology and genomics. Pathologists are starting to store not just slides of tissues but the digital images they make, which can be manipulated to gather more information about disease or damage. With the plummeting costs of genetic sequencing, companies and institutions are generating enormous amounts of data and are seeking alternative ways to archive the data.

Folio Photonics is the third company to come out of the Center for Layered Polymeric Systems. The first, Advance Hydro, was founded in Austin, TX in 2009, and was based on membrane work developed at the center. Baer, the Herbert Henry Dow Professor and Distinguished University Professor of macromolecular science and engineering, and center director, founded Polymer Plus, located in Valley View, OH, in 2010.

Folio Photonics will be based in the Cleveland, OH area. Singer and Valle hope to have prototype discs and readers to show within a year.

Our Comments

It' not the first and last time that we write that there is a urgent need for a capacity storage media for long-term reliable archiving of the exponentially increasing data in all organizations in the world.

Holography was supposed to be the right solution for a long time but never succeeds as it needs high-priced discs and complicated readers/writers. InPhase, working on 300GB to 1.6TB discs, spends as much $95 million in ten years for finally nothing even if assets were sold to hVault, a new name in holographic storage.

There is also a recent Sony archive solution based on cartridge of existing 12 Blu-ray discs with low-cost drives.

Today Millenniata seems to be in pole position to obtain a real archival available product. The company claims its DVD disc - only 4.7GB, at $3 to $4 - can last 1,000 years.

Here start-up Folio Photonics didn't reveal the durability of its new optical disc. It says that it has to "make only slight adjustments to a standard disc reader to enable it to probe and read the data." The capacity of 1TB to 2TB is well suited, archiving the equivalent of one of the most common HDDs.

But the problem here will be to press an optical disc with as much as 64 layers at a reasonable price a well as to find enough partners to build an international standard for the removable media.

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